Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, at the event to welcome Jayathma Wickramanayake, the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, in New York today:
I am pleased to be with you to welcome Ms. Jayathma Wickramanayake, the Secretary-General’s new Envoy on Youth. Jayathma represents the largest youth population that our world has ever seen. Today, 1.8. billion young people are between the ages of 10 and 24. Every one of them has hopes. Every one has aspirations. Every one has his or her own unique dream.
Young people shaped the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and they are central to it — as beneficiaries of the dividends we expect, and as actors and influencers in their own right to ensure the promise becomes reality. But, for that to happen, we need to continue to empower youth by giving them a voice, by listening to their legitimate concerns and by further developing inclusive decision-making mechanisms and processes.
Currently, in all regions, youth face a double deficit. First, they do not yet have a consistent place at the table. Second, they suffer a profound lack of opportunity — measured in education statistics and soaring rates of youth unemployment. We must close these gaps to unlock and harness the potential that our younger generations have to offer, and to provide them with the means to implement their ideas, realize their dreams and deliver on their vision of tomorrow’s world.
We will accomplish this, first, through inclusive, relevant and quality education for all our young people. As the post-2015 era began, 263 million young people below the age of 19 were out of school. Between 2008 and 2014, 86 per cent of young people in low-income countries and 57 per cent in middle-income countries had not completed upper secondary education. Too many young people leave school without having relevant skills or the opportunity to use what they have learned.
With education should come opportunity — young people not only better equipped for the jobs of tomorrow, but also better equipped to implement their ideas and shape the world of tomorrow. Education will also enhance engagement by making young people better informed and equipped to participate in decision-making.
But, today, we are not educating enough or well enough. The situation is worst for girls. Investing in girls and young women is an imperative. Every year of secondary schooling a girl receives boosts her earning power by as much as 25 per cent. Failing to invest in girls means massive wasted potential for all. Investing in women and girls pays. It pays for families. It pays for communities. It pays for societies at large. It pays for economies.
But, most important of all, it pays for girls and women, who are an integral part of our society. We will never attain 100 per cent of our goals by excluding 50 per cent of our assets, our population, our girls and women. This is particularly true in the sectors of technology, science, entrepreneurship, agriculture or politics.
So, we must truly invest in all our young people. The Secretary-General understands this. So, does Jayathma. Jayathma has broad experience of working for youth empowerment at home in Sri Lanka, including through the Hashtag Generation movement for civic and political engagement. And she has made her mark on the international stage through her leading role in negotiating the declaration of World Youth Skills Day.
Jayathma and I met recently and I was deeply impressed and encouraged by her vision, her energy and her commitment to address key issues such as youth unemployment, gender equality, peace and security. Jayathma has already launched herself fully into her new role, we are very excited to welcome her to the United Nations family and we all very much look forward to working with her in the months and years ahead. Please join me in welcoming Jayathma on board.